August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, an annual campaign that shines light on a serious, preventable health crisis that takes the lives of thousands of Canadians every year.
In Ontario, the vast majority of reported drug overdoses are due to opioid addiction. Public Health Ontario figures showed that in 2020, fatal opioid overdoses increased by up to 60 per cent and opioid-related emergency department visits increased by nearly 20 per cent.
This crisis touches nearly every sector of our public service, from corrections and ambulance services to hospitals and community agencies. OPSEU/SEFPO members treat and support those struggling with addiction daily, risking exposure in the process.
For many years, OPSEU/SEFPO has called on the government to invest in support to end this preventable crisis. While progress has been made with regards to implementing support programs and healthcare investment, we have a long way to go to end this crisis.
To put an end to the nation-wide opioid crisis, we must commit to long-lasting solutions. We must provide harm reduction education so the generations to come are informed. We must also look at the systemic issues that individuals in high-risk communities face in order to address the root causes of substance abuse.
To those who have lost loved ones to drug overdose, our hearts go out to you. OPSEU/SEFPO stands with you in the fight to end overdose fatalities.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer